Gathering Places

Karl Kim

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

HECO’s plans for
Waahila are wrong

Many of us understand the need to increase reliability of electrical service. It is crucial to our economic future and to the quality of life in Honolulu. No one wants blackouts or to experience the problems that California has faced.

Yet we need real alternatives. The reason that thousands of people have come out in opposition to HECO's plans for Waahila Ridge is that it has come to symbolize an outdated approach to energy planning.

By focusing so narrowly on the transmission line, we ignore the fact that reliability is as much related to electrical generation, storage and management of demand as it is to shipping power from one substation to another.

By insisting on installation of an overhead line, HECO is mortgaging our energy future by its failure to consider other technologies, other opportunities, and other approaches to achieving reliability.

HECO has argued that the line is needed to provide backup to the Pukele substation in Palolo Valley which serves 18 percent of the island's load, including Waikiki and the University of Hawaii.

There are more attractive ways of increasing reliability. Other states are using distributed generation, demand side management and new technologies to avoid installation of costly overhead lines. In Hana, Maui, the National Tropical Botanical Garden is constructing a hydrogen-powered fuel cell instead of extending a new transmission line.

An overhead line, moreover, has distinct disadvantages. It is vulnerable to wind, bad weather and corrosion. It is accessible to terrorists and vandals, let alone tree branches, kites and others objects that may accidently or intentionally come into contact with it.

Overhead lines and massive power poles are unsightly and degrade the natural environment and the visual experience for tourists and residents alike.

They reduce property values. High voltage transmission lines have no place in residential areas, conservation districts and in culturally significant areas such as Waahila Ridge.

It is no wonder that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has declared the ridge one of the nation's most endangered historic places because of HECO's plans.

Given the importance of the natural environment, it should come as no surprise that many, many people from across our community have opposed HECO's plans.

This is not a NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) project. We oppose HECO's plans because we want change. We want change in terms of how energy is generated. We want alternatives to burning fossil fuels. We want protection against dependency on imported oil. We want to take advantage of sustainable technologies -- solar, wind, fuel cells, ocean thermal and other ways of generating electricity here in the middle of the Pacific. We want to clean up our landscape. We want to become a model of self-sufficiency.

We want to participate in planning, decision-making and ensuring the preservation of our resources and communities into the future.

We also oppose HECO's plans because we want real choices -- not just in terms of the newspapers we can read, but also in terms of how power is generated, transmitted and distributed.

Is that too much to ask?

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